Blog by Rebecca Kinge 13/04/16
Last night, Transition Southampton organised a thought-provoking night of conversation about Southampton. Imagine if you wake up tomorrow and Southampton is as you would like it to be? What does it look like? How do you feel? What are you doing? What is your life like? These were the questions that we tried to answer, and answer them we did.
The subject of imagining our city reminded me of the group conversations that we had last October at our Dangerous Ideas event “What sort of city should Southampton be?”, which we hosted in the lead up to the Council’s local plan issues paper. (Here is the document that was produced and submitted as a result. SCC Local Plan issues community response Oct15)
Last night was organised in the innovative “World Café” style, which gives everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion, rather being dominated by the loudest voices. I’m not sure how many of us were there, but we filled every chair in the Friends Meeting House. Clare Diaper, the Chair of Transition Southampton, set the scene reminding us of the many conversations that have been happening across the city over the last couple of years on a whole range of issues such as health, inequality, tax avoidance etc as well as those more frequently associated with sustainable living. The evening was a chance to bring it all under one roof, creating a vision for the city and encourage similar conversations in every community, every network of people until we have something comprehensive that reflects the whole community’s wishes for Southampton.
In the middle of each of our café tables was a piece of paper where we drew our vision, and wrote down our ideas in a truly collaborative way. Whilst we all sat and focused, two women, Christine and Christabelle had the role of being a “butterfly” between groups. They circulated the room whilst we chatted, listened into the many conversations and then identified the common themes that emerged. I paraphrase them, but here are some of the issues that they reported as coming through loud and clear last night:
The City needs to respond to the needs of people and the environment. People want to be closer to nature, trees and water, and they want these to be social spaces. They want this linked with skills and apprenticeships. Fewer cars and less emphasis on the pursuit of capitalism. We all need more time and space to access greater opportunity.
As a final summary, we all had to identify three things that we see as priority and we positioned them on a post it note on a beautiful hand drawn picture of a tree, which represents how a city and its people that can flourish in a truly ecological way. People were at the heart of this thinking.
Transition Southampton will be sharing the pictures and notes from last night, and analysing the priorities that emerged. Importantly, we will all meet again in a month or so to help focus on this vision and move it to the next step, which is the action needed to achieve change.
Within last night’s group was Denise Baden from University of Southampton. Denise is an associate professor with expertise in sustainable development and is working on the search for Utopia no less! She has offered to help secure funding for these Imagine Southampton conversations to continue, to reach more widely into the various different parts of our local communities and ensure that it leads to positive change. You might wish to join her Facebook page “If I were a well meaning dictator I would….”
I hope you will also be part of this continued conversation. You can hear about the next Imagine Southampton event via Transition Southampton‘s email list or keep in touch via social media. We know that something needs to change. Let’s make sure it happens in a way that puts people and planet at the heart.